I've been dog sitting for my friend Deb this weekend. In the past, such house- and Harpo-sitting stints have been uneventful, but this weekend has been anything but. You see, yesterday morning, after a full night of heavy, heavy rain -- perhaps Ivan-driven -- I woke up to Harpo whining. Now, other times I've sat for Harpo, he's awoken me by whining -- usually on weekends, when I tend to sleep in, rather than on weekdays, when I wake earlier than usual to walk him before heading to work. Usually, it's because he has to go to the bathroom.
Yesterday, things were different. Yesterday morning, I woke to him whining -- thinking he had to go out -- only to realize that it was only 9 a.m. The bathroom break wasn't totally pressing yet. I could hit the proverbial snooze and take him out soon enough. So I rolled over to check on him, pet him if he was within reach -- as if to comfort or assure him -- and go back to bed for a few more minutes. Thing was, I opened my eyes to see him high stepping nervously. Second thing was, I saw what looked like silverfish scurrying across the floor. "Is the heavy rain driving insects inside?" I wondered. Then, Thing No. 3. Those weren't insects (I once got a B+ in biology for calling insects bugs; silverfish are insects); those were dog hairs and other items floating atop standing -- nay, flowing -- water.
Waking more, fueled by adrenalin, I focused my eyes intently enough to realize that the bottom floor of Deb's place -- a basement, for all practical purposes -- was awash in liquid. And steeling for a step off the bed, I soon realized further that it was covered by about an inch and a half -- two inches -- of actively flowing water. Walking gingerly around the bed, I saw water surging from underneath an unused, locked door that led to the basement hallway. My first thought was Harpo: If he was freaking out about the water, he probably needed his morning bathroom walk sooner than later. My second thought was about Deb's stuff -- she's moving to Brooklyn in a week-plus, so much of what she owns is packed in boxes stacked on the basement floor.
Walk over -- we took a speedy roundabout to Stuyvesant Park, our usual stomping grounds -- I returned to find that the water had all but receded. And within minutes, whatever was left was largely gone. Debating whether to call Deb on the West Coast before a godly hour -- and whether to disturb her with this when she was away for a wedding -- I assessed the damage. The floor would have to be cleaned. Harpo's dog bed would have to be replaced. A handful of boxes had been standing in water for who knows how long. And a throw rug was soaked.
Early yesterday afternoon, then -- just about noon on the West Coast -- I dialed Deb. She called her super, whose wife stopped by mere minutes later, to her credit. "The same thing happened to the woman next door," she said. "When no one called, I thought everything was OK." Turns out, a basement drain had slowed given the hard, prolonged rain. It stopped up and overflowed. A woman in the next building experienced the same flooding Deb did. When the rain let up, the drain had opened, and the water had receded. Nothing more could be done. We should call the management company Monday morning. I was nervous about the forthcoming evening's predicted rain, but despite a late-afternoon drizzle, nothing came forth.
Not quite sure why, I took pictures. Pictures of the dog hair gathered by draining water in the northwest corner of the basement. Pictures of the grit and debris that had washed in from the basement hallway door beneath the night table and among the trailing UBS cables. Pictures of Deb's water-damaged moving boxes. I moved the unaffected boxes onto Deb's bed and the stairs. I shifted the guitar, amplifier, and other electronics gear that had been on the floor up the stairs near the first floor. I placed the wet boxes at the foot of the basement stairs to get them off the floor -- and to drain.
And after talking to Deb later that night, I began to unpack those boxes. So the several boxes of records wouldn't be packed so tightly together. So the Archie and Bloom County comic books and albums wouldn't be sandwiched in such tight quarters. And so the photo albums that almost captured a life could fan -- and air -- out.
Deb has yet to come home. She should get here in two hours. And while I'm confident that not too much was lost, I'm dismayed. Had my records been similarly damaged; had my books, regardless of how replaceable, been sodden; I'm sure I'd have been devastated. Floored.
Thank the gods I live on the fourth floor. The water will have to rise high, high before it can reach me. And mine.